A trill of tweets this week theorized about theory-of-mind skills during conversation. Those abilities do not predict the success of an interaction between autistic, non-autistic or mixed pairs of adolescents, according to a new study that sparked the discussion.
“Fascinating paper,” tweeted Noah Sasson, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Dallas. Autistic participants broke more theory-of-mind-related norms, based on neurotypical exchanges, but didn’t differ from their non-autistic peers in terms of perspective-taking or using language about mental states — skills that Sasson notes are “how ToM is commonly defined.”
Fascinating paper. Autistic youth were rated as showing more “theory-of-mind-related violations of neurotypical conversational norms” but didn’t differ from non-autistic youth in “explicit mental state language and perspective-taking” (which is how ToM is commonly defined) https://t.co/TE7BlbdXoV
— Noah Sasson (@Noahsasson) June 20, 2022
In matched & mismatched autistic & typical dyads, “conversational theory of mind” (rated using audio & transcripts) didn’t predict interaction success https://t.co/EZNUjh59F1 “Contrary to our hypothesis”
— Michelle Dawson (@autismcrisis) June 20, 2022
Dawson also quoted a note that the work was underpowered to “test the effect of (or interactions with) dyad type” because the COVID-19 pandemic halted the researcher’s data collection.
Study investigator Diana Alkire, postdoctoral associate in the Developmental Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the University of Maryland, provided further information on her own Twitter page, along with an offer to email the accepted manuscript version to anyone without access to the journal.
Joint attention in autism also got a second look in another set of tweets kicked off by Dan Kennedy, associate professor of psychology and brain science at Indiana University Bloomington. Kennedy summarized his recent work on the subject with a short spoiler: During toy play, “hands matter more than eye contact,” he wrote, quote tweeting a related dispatch and crediting his colleagues with “a beautiful writeup.”
A beautiful writeup by Karen Adolph and Kelsey West highlighting our recent work on joint attention in autism during toy play (spoiler: hands matter more than eye contact). @YurkovicHarding @Chen_Yu_CY @BeccaCShaffer @DrKelliD https://t.co/R0MjJNduIm
— Dan Kennedy (@DanKennedyIU) June 20, 2022
“Face looking in everyday activity is equally rare in autistic and neurotypical children and not required in either group,” tweeted Damian Milton, senior lecturer in intellectual and developmental disabilities at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, in response, adding that the finding made him giggle.
Eye looking is still “diagnostically useful,” Kennedy replied, but perhaps less central to joint attention in some contexts.
Eye looking varies by context and is certainly diagnostically useful. Our work suggests that it seems to be less central in establishing joint attention in some real world (ie not lab or clinical) contexts.
— Dan Kennedy (@DanKennedyIU) June 20, 2022
Catherine Burrows, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, tweeted about her new work that points to measurement bias to explain why autism is diagnosed four times as often in boys as in girls. She and her colleagues tracked baby siblings of children with autism over the course of five years and assessed how common diagnostic tools captured the infant and toddler boy’s and girl’s traits differently. After adjusting for those differences, the sex ratio in their sample dropped to nearly 1-to-1.
So glad this paper is finally out! Our new study finds 1:1 sex ratio in ASD-related concerns when using longitudinal data, correcting for sex-related measurement bias, and a high-likelihood for ASD sample. @ibis_research @isaStallworthy https://t.co/ZBV9PpHz8q
— Casey Burrows, PhD, LP (@CaseyBurrowsPhD) June 22, 2022
“Crikey! This very interesting stuff,” tweeted Andrew Whitehouse, Angela Wright Bennett Professor of Autism Research at Telethon Kids Institute and the University of Western Australia in Perth, sharing a link to Spectrum’s coverage of the study.
Crikey! This very interesting stuff.
Yep, it’s only one study, but the data are compelling. Even more reason for whole-of-community approach to supporting kids/families across early years, rather than dipping in/out of their lives once.
— Andrew Whitehouse (@AJOWhitehouse) June 22, 2022
Yet another reason that developmental surveillance of children’s development over time is the best way forward for early identification, diagnosis, and supports for autistic children ???? A great step forward for autistic girls/women/gender diverse folk https://t.co/tGSW4BzMNM
— Josephine Barbaro (@DrJBarbaro) June 22, 2022
That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to [email protected].
Subscribe to get the best of Spectrum straight to your inbox.
Cite this article: https://doi.org/10.53053/OYLX3560